(Greek: κρυπτεία / krupteía, from κρυπτός / kruptós, “hidden, secret things”)

Adrian Lamo: From Homeless Hacker to Lamer?

with 6 comments

From the Sacramento Bee

On Thursday afternoon, Adrian Lamo sat quietly in the corner of a Starbucks inside the Carmichael Safeway, tapping on a laptop that requires his thumbprint to turn on and answering his cell phone.

The first call, he said, came from an FBI agent asking about a death threat Lamo had received.

The second was from a Domino’s pizza outlet. One of his many new enemies had left his name and number on a phony order.

The third was from Army counterintelligence, he said.

In other circumstances, it might be easy to dismiss his claims.

He is an unassuming 29-year-old who lives with his parents on a dead-end street in Carmichael and was recently released from a mental ward, where he was held briefly until doctors discovered his odd behavior stemmed from Asperger’s syndrome.

On Thursday, he was dressed in black. A rumpled sport coat covered his bone-thin frame, and a Phillips-head screw pierced his left earlobe – a real screw, not an ear stud made to look like one.

He spoke slowly and methodically, sounding almost drunk, a side effect of medication he takes to treat Asperger’s, anxiety and his rapid heartbeat.

But Lamo is the most famous computer hacker in the world at the moment, the subject of national security debates and international controversy – and a target of scorn in the hacker community that once celebrated him.

He first gained notoriety in 2003, when he was charged with hacking into the New York Times computer system, essentially just to prove he could.

“I just wanted to see what their network was like,” he said. “It was going to be the Washington Post, but I got distracted by a banner ad.”

He has re-emerged in the spotlight following his decision last month to tell federal agents he had reason to believe an Army private in Iraq was leaking classified information. He said the information was going to, a website based in Sweden that publishes information about governments and corporations submitted by anonymous individuals.

The soldier, Pfc. Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old intelligence analyst who was stationed near Baghdad, is reportedly being held by the Army in Kuwait while the case is investigated.

Lamo said Manning contacted him online after reading a profile of him on, which first reported Manning’s arrest and Lamo’s involvement last Sunday. Manning, he said, bragged about leaking classified military information to WikiLeaks, including the so-called “Collateral Murder” video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed several civilians in 2007. That video appeared on WikiLeaks in April.

Lamo said Manning also claimed to have leaked other materials to the website, including 260,000 U.S. classified diplomatic cables.

“I couldn’t just not do anything, knowing lives were in danger,” Lamo said. “It’s classified information, and when you play Russian roulette, how do you know there’s not a bullet in the next chamber?”

Full article HERE

Adrian Lamo, a name that in the hacker community for a while, was a zeitgeist for the altruism of hacking in the original sense. He popped into systems and networks with only a web browser and told the companies he had compromised in an effort to secure them. Frankly, the recent diagnosis of Aspergers makes a lot of sense to me and likely to others who have met him or know of him by watching him. He has an interesting personality that borders on the strange and Aspergers may well explain his focus on such minutiae as he has shown up with in his hacks.

With the events of late regarding his turning in the alleged source for Wikileaks, there has been a fair bit of loathing on the part of the hacker community against Lamo and I for one think that he did the right thing. Look, this guy Manning has yet to be shown to be a Daniel Ellsberg here. Daniel released data that unequivocally showed that our government was lying to us about Viet Nam. Perhaps some of what Manning was seeing was on par with that, but, he went to Wikileaks instead of say the New York Times with his allegations. In fact, I have not heard anything substantive out of Manning that would lead me to believe that he is anything more than a hacker wannabe or.. Just someone craving attention. The mere fact he went to Lamo on this show’s more about his motives than anything else.

If you look at the chat transcripts there is no real sense that this guy was looking to put an end to conspiracy as much as get Lamo to like him… Simple as that I think. So, what Lamo did was in my mind right. He reported the potential for large leaks of cables that could blow NOC agents all over the world potentially as well as place our diplomatic aspirations globally at risk. Who knows what else might have been given to Wikileaks and or may be out of pocket elsewhere thanks to Manning. The damage could be long in coming and severe really and Lamo could see that. Not to mention that he knew enough that now he was a party to treasonous acts and could by just knowing of it, be a co-conspirator had he not reported. If he thought he knew the dark side of the judicial system before with the Grey Lady incident, he certainly could fathom what would happen to him on treason charges.

So, all the hacker kiddiez out there.. Leave him alone. He actually did the right thing here. Cut out the death threats and all the BS that certainly is going to go on… Especially at DC18 I am sure he will get some negative attention because many of the hacker types are childish narcissists to start. Its time to grow up.

Now, with all that said, should there have been some epic malfeasance on the part of the government along the lines of the Pentagon Papers, then I would understand in passing such data to the Times or perhaps even to Wikileaks. However, without there being confirmed actions on the part of our government, I cannot agree with what has happened. Yes, the footage that came out and the subsequent recognition that civilians in a war zone were killed by US forces fire is bad and perhaps there was some attempt at covering up, it does not merit the continued and further exploitation of all data at the hands of this guy.

For an analyst he sure wasn’t analyzing the data. I guess that some of this all will come out eventually if there is a trial that can be reported on by the press. Though, likely it will not as everything is classified.

What may be more telling is that what Manning did was so easily done with SIPRNET systems and alleged compartmented data. Once again, the measures that the military had taken, even with the assumption of “trust but verify” were clearly not being carried out here. I have heard the stories before and seen the fall out from processes not being followed where security is involved not only in the military area, but in every day corporate life. If you fail to carry out your basics of OPSEC and INFOSEC, then you FAIL epically to retain your data security.

Bad on the military here.

In any case, Lamo did the right thing either for his own skin’s safety or a real sense of just how far reaching the damage could be to this country. As well, this incident may actually get him closer to being a truly functional member of the security community.

Well done.


Written by Krypt3ia

2010/06/14 at 17:46

6 Responses

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  1. Any damage done by Manning would never have occurred if not for the war created under false pretenses and continued for imperialist purposes. Lets ignore that for a second and pretend I advocate the murder of brown folks half way around the world.

    To wit:
    The core of your argument rests on your analysis of Manning’s motives, that you gleaned from reading the edited chat logs of a conversation he had with Lamo. Glenn Greenwald of Salon was able to show that Wired (Poulsen, as editor probably did it himself) had heavily edited the chat logs. I would say that your premise is founded on incomplete data:

    Manning did a good thing, Lamo is simply riding his coat tails for publicity with the help of his perennial media mouthpiece Kevin Poulsen. Read the Salon article, there is more to this than what Wired has published.

    W. Edwin Hinds IV

    2010/08/03 at 21:36

  2. Edwin,
    I disagree that these documents so far released on the Afghanistan war are at all relevant to anything earth shattering. The data, if you go through it, is all “raw” intelligence that really only serves to break any trust we might have had with Afghans who were willing to work with the US against the Talib’s and AQ. Now, the ones who have had their names exposed via the documents attributed to Manning’s release to Wikileaks are now targets for death as well as their families. So, no, this dump is not a Daniel Ellsberg moment for anyone involved.

    On the release of the video captured on the Reuters employees deaths, I agree that if indeed there was intent to just “light em up” as the video shows without there being any real threat/intel that these were insurgents, then yes, I agree that this should have been made public and a mea culpa made by the military and government.

    On the whole issue of Mannings motives and the unjust war, I agree that we never should have been in Iraq. This was a pet project for the WHIG and Cheney and never should have happened. The real war was in Afghanistan and Pakistan to isolate, capture, or kill the Taliban and AQ. Bush utterly screwed the pooch here and there is no getting around that. We are now forced to clean up what is left and Afghanistan is unfortunately still a problematic place as well as Pakistan.


    The genie is out of the bottle. The Salafists have had plenty of fodder from Iraq and Afghanistan to move their jihad into a global movement. These dumps only serve to make it even worse and give them much more propaganda to work with. Do I agree with the way things are carried out at times.. No. Do I agree with Manning’s decision tree here?



    2010/08/04 at 13:11

  3. It is awful when your countrymen find out that you are a quisling who has been working with the invading force. This is how war works. It happened in Holland and France after the Nazi’s had been driven out of power. I am not comparing the US military to Nazi’s, just showing what happens to collaborators when their friends leave, which they will eventually do. To blame Manning for the actions of the Taliban or the Army is just silly.

    I am not Plutarch and I am not terribly concerned with the personal motivations that resulted in Manning’s leaking of classified information. The video, and the subsequent documents (which show that the government has been hiding the number of Afghan civilian deaths) reveal that we are being lied to on a routine basis, and that innocent folks are being murdered in “our” name. Manning is a whistleblower, not a saint.

    The actions of the military give the jihadist’s useable propaganda, not the release of data by some little known private.

    The CIA and US military need to stop hiding behind classified documents and the American flag, it is time they take responsibility for what the hell they are doing instead of blaming a whistleblower for making the truth public.

    W. Edwin Hinds IV

    2010/08/04 at 17:00

  4. Adrian Lammer = Lammer


    By Comunity Hacker


    2010/10/09 at 05:31

  5. I appreciate your call for genteelness with Lamo.
    After seeing him explain himself, I have to admit that I was worried about his mental well being.
    I don’t agree with what he did though. I do think that he thought he was doing the good an patriotic thing. I am glad it was not my decision to make.

    My sense is that Afghanistan is a tangled mess of ‘intelligence’ intrigue, manipulation and paid corruption, so tangled that it is often hard to tell the good guys from the bad, while it seems the field grunts were taking the attitude of kill em all and let God sort em out – first aid not allowed and children not considered.
    I appreciated the illumination.

    Kristi Gilleland

    2010/10/14 at 06:02

  6. I think this Adrian guy is a total asshole for outing Manning like that. He did us all a valuable service by releasing those documents. Many were incriminating of our own government. Adrian has disgraced the hacker community by ruining Manning’s freedom of speech.


    2010/12/10 at 04:00

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